WHO'S WHO IN THE
NISEI LITERARY WORLD
By Kenny Murase
Scanning the nisei literary horizon, we see a galaxy of literary lights-- … a hitch-hike trip up North have etched impressions sharply into our mind. With some of these writers it was just a "Hello" and a "Glad to have met you." But with most of them we've come to know as real friends--the kind of friends what would augment your dreams and your hopes of a brighter tomorrow--the kind of friends that gives you a bit of confidence, a dash of optimism, and something of a reassurance that perhaps humanity is good, and that life might not be so bad after all.
What followed was Murase’s short description of the writing the person and personality of several JA writers in several places on his way northward. All very interesting. Murase the traveling appreciator. He appreciates the writers worth appreciating and visits them. He’s not a writer himself. No urge to write the great Japanese American Novel, but he drools at the thought of reading it. And he speculates on who might write it. A man of taste. Could Omura have been grooming him for CURRENT LIFE’s book critic?
SHAWN IN KAY BOYLE’S HOUSE
Shawn Wong, the poet, novelist, teacher, as a co-editor set the spelling of Aiiieeeee! with the words “Three ‘eyes’ and five ‘eehs’ if you please.” He lived in a large gingerbread house owned, at the time, by Kay Boyle. Born in
She described two rich and educated people who lived with each other after a horse ride and a roll in the grass lying next to each other “like a corpse next to a corpse” in the THE CRAZY HUNTER. I said, Tasty! I can’t describe the story but certain lines jumped and kept me reading. She tastefully orchestrated the jumps of a reader more experienced and better off than me. I’m uncomfortable among the rich and people raised to the style of the rich. I don’t want to aspire to have a front room that would comfortably hold my whole house. Though I could get used to shelf of books that is actually a bar. I’ve worn the white jacket and served too many rich as a kid. Jeff had been student of Kay Boyle. He called her Kay. She married the Baron Joseph von Frankenstein and had a castle, and began teaching at
I gave her a Kwan Kung small enough to close her fist around. He was the number two of the three brothers of the Oath in the
A wavy haired well dressed man stopped us at the door to the room with the gleaming microphones and told us what to say. He would strike the themes of the united front.
“Who are you?”
He was Edison Uno the saint of the JACL. He personally suffered the punishment due the JACL for betraying the Nisei. In the name of the JACL he lay the JACL’s guilt at the feet of white writers and white newscasters. (But wasn’t he supposed to be nobly suffering the JACL’s punishment, not palming it off?) The programs he appeared on knew the JACL myth that the Japanese Americans entered and endured camp without protest or resistance, volunteered to fight to prove their loyalty and their battlefield performance freed their race from the camps. They knowingly surrendered their rights to white racists and joined them in their white racism in a strategy designed to destroy the sense of being born to the Japanese pride and avoid the law. There had to be protest and resistance before camp and in camp. But not from him. He stayed inside the JACL, because it was the only JA org. His strategy was to change it from within. He was ridiculed in the inside pages of the JACL paper, the PACIFIC CITIZEN. I found his strategy really distasteful. He had as much chance of changing the JACL as he had of changing the Nazi Party, or the Ku Klux Klan. If JA wanted a changed JACL they would change their name. Obviously they liked their white racist record, they liked their rep for dishonesty, they liked intimidating the JA’s into silence about camp. And like the JACL he rebelled against, he wouldn’t tolerate talk of resisters. He didn’t want to cloud the issue of white guilt with JACL being a fake civil rights org trapping unwitting JA’s for the FBI and the resistance against the JACL and camps.
His people, the Nisei were the second generation from
I came within a name and address to handling a manuscript by a Japanese-American fictioneer, a George FurIya given a moment of JACL fame in the pages of the JACL paper the PACIFIC CITIZEN by the paper’s wartime editor, Larry Tajiri after the war. Not only was Tajiri the editor of the JACL weekly THE PACIFIC CITIZEN, he was a JACL confidential informant to the FBI code named “T-1” during camp. He was the spokesman for Mike Masaoka’s JACL policies. I thought his writing of the unpublished, unknown George Furiya was praise for a pro-JACL wordsmith, in the Jan. 17, 1948 issue of the PACIFIC CITIZEN:
"An Unpublished Novelist."
"There are uncomplete novels in his trunk and one of these days George will be back to finish them. Maybe one of them will be published and he will be famous. You might remember the name. George Furiya."
Dearest Larry and Guyo,
Anyway, how are you? And you, Guyo. The bugs are well under control, so don't worry. The old saying about children would describe my bugs well if it had been written by
A long letter, but a well-meant one. I love you both, and thanks for letter. It was most touching. Now guess what I'm doing now. I'm on
Why did Tajiri wait until he was about to leave the PACIFIC CITIZEN for the
Wouldn’t you think that in sixty years, someone would have noticed, 1936 to 1946--the All-American generation of Asians—was missing from AALit, and gone looking? No. Why? No magazines. No critics. Meantime, I’ve gone from fifty nine to sixty six and have been away from my own writing for too long.
From WWII through the rest of the 20th century on to the present Japanese Americans have gone from 120, 313 let out of camp to today’s 9600 nationwide in 2006. A yellow woman on the arm of a white man is an image of normalcy in the commercials building worlds in the interruption, interrupted by this other image. Japanese men with white women on their arms is an image that many yellow athletes in the movies wish for, so they can be seen as men. It’s embarrassing to see a muscleman with ultra coiffed hair whining about his dick getting no respect from the white producers of his movies because he’s yellow.
An AA mag would ask the writers and makers of the films why they won’t let a “yang” yellow musclemen have a “yin” white woman? A yellow critic, pitching to a yellow audience, would save the boys the embarrassment of representing all of Asian manhood, as in the recent propaganda boo hoo, THE SLANTED SCREEN putting a lineup of Hollywood yellow movie macho men on camera to plead for their dicks getting white women’s attention. There are ways of saying what THE SLANTED SCREEN says without making so many males embarrass themselves.
Actors act, we shouldn’t put them in the position of asking the questions of the audience that the critics should ask. But we have no critics. We’re reluctant to criticize. There is no Asian American lit without a literary argument. I see NO-NO BOY dying because Asian America wouldn’t talk about it. How do the revealed truth about the JACL betrayal of Japanese America and they invented the term “No-No boy” as a mistaken synonym for “criminal” they’re taking over the history and the publicity for their people.
The Saint was for working inside the all-powerful JACL. He couldn’t buck the spirit of Mike Masaoka while he lived. If he was a Saint, Masaoka was God.
The wavy haired Saint preached: Walking the JACL path of white righteousness against Japs and for the Japanese Americans, the American-born that so desperately wish they were as white on the outside, as they were on the inside. And to the whites of white news writing and news casting and Network newscasters, the JapAmface and voice of the news, in the realm of news stars in a sky of entertainment. He had become I learned later, the Networks’ expert’s last word on Japanese-American camps.
“I don’t know you. And I don’t like you,” I said. He lowered his eyes to mine. He was a tall dead man. And showed me his dead man’s eyes as if to intimidate me. “You’re a dead man!” I said, “Die!” and pushed past him.
In 1978 I was researching the WWII camps for Japanese Americans to bring me up to date as to why they were going to congress or court looking for “Redress,” I learned that the chickenshit dying man whose eyes I looked into had inspired the boys and girls that grew up to be the men and women who brought the redress movement to life.
The flat fizz when our eyes met. And the disgusting deadeyes that cringed from me, are all that I remember. Nothing of what was said by whom on the air. Kay Boyle and me are in the taxi taking us away from the forgotten broadcast studio. Kay Boyle thanks me for giving her a small redfaced Kwan Kung and telling her the story of who he was. Our cab pulls up to a black who recognized Kay Boyle in the cab had his cab call us so he could thank her for kind words he gave his first book. He gives Kay Boyle a copy of his new book of poetry. Lawson knew the poet. “Politician,” he said. Politics in poetry? “You don’t want to hear about it.” I don’t want to hear about it. It was because she loved Shawn Wong that she took the time to read the essay we were writing to introduce AIIIEEEEE! She knew James Joyce in
From China a message: They had checked the unabridged Oxford English Dictionary, The Cambridge, The Webster’s, The American Heritage, the Columbia Dictionary of the English Language for “Aiiieeeee!” China-she or China-he had checked all the dictionaries and came up blank. Might “Aiiieeeee” be a word from another language? AIIIEEEEE! and THE BIG AIIIEEEEE! were anthologies of writing by American-born Chinese and Japanese with two exceptions that proved the rule; Taro Yashima and Mitsu were two artists and political activists who fled
Their Japanese American children, Mako and Momo are likewise accomplished in the arts and extend their parent’s vision, as they build their own. Louis Chu was born in
The reasons why, these two we discussed in the essays of smartass literary history I wrote to introduce the continuity we found in generation after generation of the born-in-the-America Asian-way of looking at things published in America, since 1880. The real reason was there instances when I could read Louis Chu and get one impression of the people in English but in the Chinese that he’d worked in, in puns and jokes he hums and grunts another impression that jars with the English. The book closes with Ben Loy not able to stiffen his rod. He describes Ben Loy’s wife Mei Oi going down on him, as the literal flesh and blood woman (yin) and him going down on her as the literal yang (man) of the Tao , tonguing each other. It was perfectly obvious to me but too much for my co-editors, so I didn’t mention it in AIIIEEEEE!
The Japanese American owner stood half in the dark wearing a canvas fishing hat with little ears over the vents, and round glasses with thick round frames. The light through the window and silvered up she shine of his teeth and turned his glasses into mirrors on dimpled his round face. He wore a short-sleeved white shirt, khaki pants and hiking boots.
“The Chinese stored and shipped their gold and portable wealth with Wells Fargo Express Co, where they had bulletproof safes, and valiant horses.” He turned a page in the book.
He pointed. “This publisher is a job printer.”
“Job printer?” He closed the book and handed it to me.
“They did this as a printing job for Wells Fargo.”
Wong Sam and Associates’ A CHINESE ENGLISH PHRASE BOOK is physical proof that we Chinese were in Washington, Oregon, California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico before they graduated from savages and gun law to civilized States one at a time, they drove the Old West west and out and were admitted as members of the United States of America with their own star on the flag. The dates of the western Territory’s Admission to Statehood are holidays, a birthdays across the map. We were here when the West was admitted into the
Why is it a throwaway airlines magazine readable Muzak, was out with thoughts on Wong Sam before an AA mag? There was and is no AA mag. We have never been able to achieve a real, respected, real magazine. The Japanese Americans had CURRENT LIFE the magazine for the American born Japanese, then the JACL shut James Omura down.
to be continued